Diogo Jota's £45m transfer to Liverpool came as a surprise for everyone. Jurgen Klopp has always been known for going for his first-choice players in the transfer market. He has never gone for any alternative options, considering the cases when he failed to pen deals down with Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. The Liverpool manager didn't go for any alternative choices, instead, he waited until he managed to sign them up.
When Klopp failed to bring Timo Werner to Anfield, the story was expected to be similar. But Chelsea had already gotten hold of the Bundesliga superstar and getting him was going to be improbable now. So, this time, he went for a compromise by signing Portuguese winger Diogo Jota from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Even though he didn't get hold of Werner, Klopp did complete another high profile transfer of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich. So the move to go for Jota was a highly unprecedented one.
But even though it seemed like a compromise deal initially, Jota's arrival to Anfield now looks like a part of Klopp's long term vision to develop an understudy to Sadio Mane.
Look at what Jota brings to the table -- Speed, press, big-game potential, scoring prowess and flexibility -- and you can clearly see attributes that can be associated with Mane.
Jota is unpredictable and inconsistent too, but so was Mane when Klopp brought him to Anfield from Southampton. The Senegalese winger was 24 years old then and he had gone through a 16-match goal drought before scoring in his last eight games for Southampton. The Portuguese winger, who is 23 now, went through a drought of nine and eight matches in the previous two seasons respectively with the Wolves.
But let's not forget that he scored two hat-tricks in the last Europa League season as well. Let's not forget that during his tenure with the club based at the Molineux stadium, Jota has scored against opponents like Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United too. Smell big match potential there?
Overall, in his 129-game long career with the Wolves -- spanning over three seasons -- Jota scored a total of 44 goals and assisted 11 times. These numbers are as good as it can get for anyone who is not a specialist striker.
Jota is very much in the Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino mould -- neither a striker nor a winger, but a hybrid forward capable of playing in multiple roles and positions. Klopp primarily likes to go with the 4-3-3 formation but there are times when he switches to the 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formations as well. We see either of Mane or Salah switching into the role of a second striker along with Firmino in the latter two formations.
So that sums up the need for flexibility in Klopp's plans. Jota, once again, fits that bill perfectly. In his career with the Wolves, Jota has mostly played either as a left-winger or as a supportive striker to Raul Jimenez on the left-hand side of the pitch. Despite that, there have been multiple occasions when he has even outscored Jimenez. That brilliance right there, even though sporadic, gives an idea about the immense potential this Portuguese international has.
Jota won't be able to break into Liverpool's first-team immediately with the likes of Mane and Salah at the peak of their abilities now. But he is young and hence, he can bide his time at Anfield. Also, there are more games packed into shorter spans in this 2020/21 season due to the time eaten up by the global pandemic, so Jota will get a fair number of chances to prove his mettle whenever either of Mane or Salah are rested.
Moreover, Jota is in the good hands of Klopp -- one that brought a player like him to the club half a decade back and completed unlocking the untapped potential in him. Mane is consistent and lethal now, and one of the most valuable assets for the club. It remains to be seen whether Klopp will be able to do the same with Jota. But if his managerial history is anything to go by, it's more than certain that he will.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Richard Heathcote